News & Opinion

Why Atmos Doesn’t Work from Disney+


We’ve run into multiple instances when we aren’t getting the audio we expect from a streaming service. Currently, we are noticing it most on Disney+. When you pay $30 to stream Black Widow day-and-date, you want to get the best audio available. But we noticed that we were only getting Dolby Digital Plus instead of the full Atmos. So we started to do some research as to why Atmos wasn’t working from Disney+.

What Is Your Display Resolution?

The first thing we tested was switching video resolutions. When we forced our device to output 1080p instead of 4k, we noticed that the audio was downgraded to Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Plus. It seemed as though Atmos would not work if you weren’t also sending a 4k resolution image from Disney+. So, if you are still rocking a 1080p display, you might be unable to get Atmos from your streaming sources.

We tried different streaming services that have Atmos available and noted the same for some. For some, you lose Atmos like you do with Disney+, but for others, you can have a 1080p display and Atmos works fine. Great, we thought, we’ll just list the different services and delineate how they handle Atmos and 4k.

But, Wait! Which Device are you Using?

Then we noticed something strange. We forced an Xbox Series X, an Apple TV 4k, and an NVidia Shield to output 1080p. With the Xbox and Nvidia, this caused Disney+ to output Dolby Digital Plus. The Apple TV 4k? That put out Atmos just fine.

So, it seems that it isn’t a setting within the streaming service. It is somehow tied to the platform. While that is annoying, it does mean that this is something that can (theoretically) be fixed. An update to the app within your platform should be able to to get Atmos working correctly. Now, if you really want Disney+ to stream Atmos at all video resolutions, you’ll need to work on complaining to the platform. Or you could upgrade your display or pick up an Apple TV 4k.


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